Council rejects liquor ordinance for downtown
It turns out the opposition to a liquor by the drink ordinance was the Baldwin City Council that requested the ordinance be drafted.
The council on Monday night rejected 3-1 an ordinance to allow restaurants in the downtown business district to serve liquor by the drink. The decision came after months of study and discussion, and without much opposition from Baldwin residents.
When it came down to a vote, council members were not confident that a bar could not open downtown, despite a 50 percent minimum food sale restriction imposed by the ordinance.
"Morally, I have a difficult time with it," said council president Marilyn Pearse. "I don't think it has been demonstrated enough that we can limit it the way we would like it to be limited. There isn't enough language in the world. I think we are leaving it wide open a lot more wide open than I intended for it to be in the first place."
The ordinance was drafted by city attorney Bob Bezek, who did not attend Monday's council meeting. Ted Brecheisen Jr., who supported the ordinance, said the ordinance should have been tabled because of Bezek's absence.
Had the ordinance passed, Walt's Pizza Cafe would have been the only existing business to be impacted. The restaurant owner, Walt Faber, has said he would apply for a liquor license if allowed. Brecheisen owns the Walt's Pizza Cafe building.
"I think it would have been regulated," Brecheisen said. "It could have been regulated to where there wouldn't be open saloons.
"I think you should have a fair chance to have the business you want, whether downtown or on the highway."
The liquor by the drink issue has been brought up several times over the years, and Mayor Stan Krysztof said he expects "it will be back." From the beginning, Krysztof opposed the idea of open saloons downtown, but not restaurants being able to serve a drink with a nice meal.
"I see no problem with liquor by the drink downtown, if you can guarantee it is a restaurant," Krysztof said. "I am not that comfortable with the wording, and I don't want saloons downtown."
Krysztof said he expected a close vote and is confident in the council's decision.
"We have been discussing this for months, and with all the discussion that has been had you get the feel of things," he said. "I knew it would be a close vote."
Throughout discussion of the issue, its connection to Baker University was debated on several occasions.
Baldwin was founded in 1858 when the Kansas Educational Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church sold 640 acres to raise money to start Baker University. The land deeds carried a restriction that the land could not be used for the making or sale of intoxicating liquors. The university's board has not lifted the restriction, or enforced it.
Rep. Ralph Tanner firmly believed in the legal restrictions of the 142-year-old deed, and resigned his post as chairman of the Baldwin City Planning Commission over the issue in September.
"I'm pleased that the council decided as it did," Tanner said from the legislative session in Topeka. "The issue that really bothered me remains. That is, we have the essence of a law on the books that we ought to either enforce or get off the books."